My first LDC mic! Advice please. Sample of my work included

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by Twon3, Jan 2, 2010.

  1. Twon3

    Twon3 Guest

    First off, Hi everyone! This forum seems like a great resource, and I've already learned tons here. I'd love to give advice whenever I'm qualified.

    My question is another "Which mic should I buy??", so I'll make it quick. I'm a student and have been a bedroom producer for about 7 years, and want to make music more seriously. For the last 7 years I've used one mic: the AT2020. For a sample of the recording I've done with it, see the link below.

    I will be recording mostly male vocals but maybe some female too. The style is either hip hop (rapping) or else singing in a pop/folk style. My goal is for the vocals to be as clear and crisp as possible, but with soul. I'd also like to record alto sax and hand percussion if possible. My space is either my bedroom in California which has loads of blankets, carpets, wood bookshelves and is actually really quiet; or else my apartment in Providence, RI which is a giant wood-and-plaster room and has some serious echo which is usually pretty undesirable. I'm thinking of setting up some mattresses and hanging blankets in a corner to make a bootleg vocal booth, which might help somewhat. I run through an M-Audio Firewire Solo interface (XLR --> Firewire) which treats me pretty sweetly.

    I want to buy one mic right now which will seriously increase the sound quality over my AT2020, but which will also be a solid investment for the future. My budget is about $200 - $400 (hey, I'm a student!). I've done loads of research on this site and here's what I'm deciding between:

    - AT4040 - I've had good results with AT so far and I hear this is a good clear all-purpose mic. I'm a little uncertain, though, how much it will improve over my AT2020.
    - AT4033 - I hear this mic might be great or might not be; also it's a bit more expensive.
    - Shure KSM32/44 - Don't know as much about these but I hear they are good and accurate. They're a tad above my price range though.
    - Blue Bluebird - I hear mixed things. Looks funky and easy to break.
    - Rode NT1/1000 - I know Rode is a respected brand. Not sure if these are the best mics for the job, though.
    - SM57/58 - The only dynamic I'm looking at. I hear it's great (a real classic!) and a bargain but not sure if it's right for my style. My friend has one which I will test out tomorrow.

    Naturally I'm open to other mic recommendations.

    As promised, here's a link to my music so you can hear my beautiful voice and recording: Listen to "Out Of Love" - it's an old song but is close to the kind of music I will be making: loud, obnoxious electropop with pretty brash vocals. There are 2 vocal styles: the falsetto which starts the song, and a more "normal" male sound, which begins at 2:20 (feel free to skip ahead). The AT2020 gave a decent vocal sound but I ruined it a bit with over-production (too much chorus effect, etc).

    That's all; now, please advise away!! Many many thanks.

    - Twon
  2. soapfloats

    soapfloats Well-Known Member

    Aug 28, 2008
    Cincinnati, OH
    Home Page:
    My pick -
    An SM57 and one of the condensers.
    Or just the 57.

    The different applications you desire make this a little complicated.
    A good condenser will handle most, but a 57 (or 58) is indispensable.

    Each mic has its own advantages and disadvantages, but those w/ an option of multiple-patterns would be a plus for you, I think.
    Finally, the Bluebird will provide some character that the others may not - though it may not be what you want.
    Disclaimer: I haven't used any of the condensers but the KSM & BB personally, but I have used the 2020 plenty.
  3. Twon3

    Twon3 Guest

    Thanks for the reply soapfloats! I know I am making it sort of complicated; recording vocals is by far the most important application (more so than instruments), but admittedly I aim to record a couple different voices and styles.

    Why do you recommend the 57/58, perhaps even more so than any condenser?

    Also, since you say you are experienced with the 2020 as well as LDCs like the KSM and BB, what real improvements (to sound quality, etc) will a more expensive condenser offer over the 2020? Really basic question I know, but I want to make sure I hear some substantial improvement for my money.

  4. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Scotland, UK
    There's more electronics in a condenser than a dynamic. So at a lower price, you get "more dynamic" for your money.

    The 58/57 have (as you know) a humongous reputation and a minimal failure rate.

    The cheap condensers can have harsh sounding high frequency response. The build quality of the pieces might be poor, moreso on the really cheap units.

    Note that I don't own any of these, I'm repeating common opinions.
  5. soapfloats

    soapfloats Well-Known Member

    Aug 28, 2008
    Cincinnati, OH
    Home Page:
    The 57/58 is just a very versatile mic.
    Perfect for every application? No.
    Suitable for every application? Almost definitely.

    And Mr. Monkey is right on about the cheap condensers.
    Harshness and poor build. Not to say you can't get a good cheap condenser, but quality control from unit to unit can be suspect. Some of them can also be rather noisy.

    Finally, the Bluebird.... has some balls compared to the 2020 and KSM line IMHO. It's a really high-output mic. The KSM line is very nice, especially the multi-pattern and attenuation pad benefits of the 44. Just a little more vanilla than the BB. I've used the 27 (discontinued) to record school band concerts (ST pair). They always did a nice job. I would equate the KSM44 to a poor-man's 414.

    Hope that helps - and please wait for the heavies to weigh in, they're far more knowledgeable and experienced than myself or the Monkey!
  6. soundfarm1

    soundfarm1 Active Member

    Dec 30, 2008
    I think you would do well with a rode NT-2. It really is a step up from the 2020 and versatile mic with the variable patterns (cardiod, bi-directional, and omni). For vocal work, I have found it to have a smooth character with no harshness in the sound. (your choice of pre-amp plays an important role, as well). It also fits within your price range. I have had one for 3 years now and had no problems with it at all from a reliability perspective.
  7. Twon3

    Twon3 Guest

    Thanks so much for the replies so far.

    Another followup question: What use might I have for a mic with multiple patterns? Several of you have recommended multi-pattern mics, and I am also now looking at the AT4050 in addition to the KSM44. Especially given that my room acoustics are pretty flat and/or undesirable, do I really need a mic with, say, an omni pattern?


  8. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    Sep 19, 2003
    Well if a 57 is an option, why not an SM7-b.

    About $350 I understand. Maybe not the perfect thing for your percussion and sax.

    Although if you are going to go Rode, may I strongly suggest thinking about the extra for a K2?

    Again, perhaps not perfect for your sax and percs, but both of these will be a very good choice for vox.

    And to be clear, although I suggest these aren't perfect for the sax/perc, they would, I feel, for you outperform the SM57 and NT-2 respectively.

    The SM57 is a much wiser choice than the NT-2 and allows you to save some pennies for more variety - and the SM57 Beta is a great mic too.
  9. rockstardave

    rockstardave Active Member

    Mar 3, 2006
    sm7b? maybe, but the re20 is a nice dynamic with condenser-like results too!

    also forget about sm57/sm58.

    finally - do yourself a favor and get a RODE mic
  10. Link555

    Link555 Well-Known Member

    Mar 31, 2007
    North Vancouver
    I have the orignal NT2, not the NT2A. Its a great all around mic. It does have a postive bump at 4kHz though.
  11. Twon3

    Twon3 Guest

    Thanks for the continued discussion, people!

    Jeemy, why do you recommend the SM7-b? I understand it's bigger, more expensive and has a different response pattern than the 57, and has some good reviews for vocal use on for example, but in what audible ways does it outperform the 57/58?

    Dave, why do you say to forget the 57/58? The RE20 looks nice as well although it costs a bit more; how does it compare with the SM7-b?

    Also, an update: I tested my friend's SM58, as well as his AKG C3000B. The C3000 I understand is nobody's favorite mic (not going to buy it) but it least it gave me an LDC to compare. On my voice, the C3000 sounded very bright and crisp, in a good pop-y way, especially on high vocals, but also fairly boxy. Kind of like sipping clear ice water from a cardboard cup. The 58 sounded warm and sweet especially on low/mid-range vocals, more like a mug of rich thick hot chocolate.

    Metaphors aside, I'm starting to think that maybe a good dynamic is the way to go for my voice. Or perhaps just the 58. And now with these new recommendations... hmm. A shiny-sounding LDC is still appealing though. Oh, the choices. Another thing to note is that my mics run directly into my M-Audio interface, which provides adequate but not extensive gain. Might this influence my decision away from certain dynamics?
  12. Link555

    Link555 Well-Known Member

    Mar 31, 2007
    North Vancouver
    The SM7B is great vocal mic, I use mine on rock vocal all the time. It can be set flat or with a boost in the upper mids. It can from neutral to enhanced. Worth the money.

    The RE-20 is a great mic too. Great on kick and vocals that need a bit of body.

    Looked at the Heil stufff yet?

    I have 2 AKG C3000's, while they get bad reviews, I like them. Some vocalist sound great on them. I like them on electric guitars as well.

    I like the AT 4040 more than the 4033 but both are solid workhorse mics. From your list I would buy the AT 4040 or KSM44.

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